(I will be writing a more detailed, instructional post on this shortly, but for now – here’s my story, which I will update as my employment continues):
This all started for me in early September last year; a particularly turbulent time in my life was slowly but surely coming to a close, and although not fun, it gave me a bit of time to reassess and work out my priorities. One thing in particular stuck out for me:
I wanted to work from home, and I needed to have much more control of my time than I already had. Enter Whales English (…actually, enter a few companies, but Whales was the one that really stuck)
The Initial Interview and The Dreaded Demo
By mid-September, I’d completed my online interview with Two Sigmas – an agency who specialise in finding you online or overseas teaching work – and I was ready and poised to begin the relentless carousel of demo classes and interviews that mark the start of any online teaching job.
Within a week I was interviewing for 2 schools, and Whales began with an informal online chat with lovely, friendly Julie – a Canadian recruitment agent for the company. I entered 10 minutes early, as requested, and was met with a very animated discussion between said recruitment agent and another interviewee. This. Freaked. Me. Out.
This guy was clearly a seasoned pro; he was discussing his many years of teaching experience and his success stories and his qualifications and…man, he sounded good. I’d have hired him on the spot and given him a $500 Golden handshake. I, of course, panicked about how I’d measure up, and what – actually – did I have to offer? *imposter syndrome*
I needn’t have worried. I began discussing my degree (Linguistics) and my teaching experience (2 years in Vietnam) and just gave her a general impression of me, as an enthusiastic and passionate teacher. She was lovely, the ‘interview’ was a success, and the next stage – the dreaded ‘demo’ – was booked and ready to roll.
All good, I thought. I’ve done demos before – no problemo. Then, somehow, I discovered that the demo would be held in tandem with another teacher’s, and all of a sudden, I’m back in panic mode. I had never used the programme (Zoom) before, and the idea of fluffing it in front of another seasoned pro was daunting.
But the time came, as it does, and I entered the ‘classroom’ to deliver my demo. It wasn’t smooth; I forgot to ‘share sound’ on my computer, and I was a little clunky on the controls. The other teacher, again, was more experienced and had clearly been around the online block a fair few times.
Where I was over-animated and super-keen, she was cool and calm and commanded way more authority. However – and this is for you fellow panickers and over-analysers – it was fine. They liked me and my teaching style; I got the job, along with the email containing congratulations, my contract, and instructions on the next stage:
This is where I felt I could relax a little; I had the job in the bag, and now it was down to me to process the material, show ‘em my skillz, and start to piece together what this online teaching business really entailed.
Clicking on the Google Drive link contained in my ‘Congrats!’ email, I was presented with training videos and the four demo lessons to prepare for the session. One of the four would be picked to present for 15 minutes, and the rest of the time (45 minutes) was to be spent showing us the ropes.
I watched the videos like a studious little beaver, and prepared the lessons in earnest. To really amp up my Teacher Cred, I came up with some snazzy reward systems to go along with the demos (I will do a further post on these shortly).
From what I remember, there were a few of us in the ‘room’ and we each presented our lesson, before getting down to the nitty gritty (learning the software etc etc). It was nothing to worry about, and meeting some others in the same boat gave a little reassurance that this was all legit and above board (because until this point, I had no idea whether this whole shebang was just some crazy, elaborate scam!)
And So We Begin…
I’m not sure what I expected – maybe a week’s grace before the mayhem ensued. That’s definitely not the way it happened; I was away and teaching within 24 hours. Four classes back-to-back, Saturday and Sunday, announced via a Skype message from my lovely TS (trial support), Helen.
Finding the Teacher Portal (where you sign into classes) in my training notes, I nervously signed in and checked all my classes. The ‘Fireman’ (the on-call help you have access to at all times) was summoned to assist on a fair few occasions *nerves*, but really, the lessons went without hitch and I knew straight away that this was a job I was going to enjoy.
A couple days later (with furthermore classes under my belt) a barrage of emails arrived in my inbox, inviting me to train for regular classes. This wasn’t appealing after the multi-stage process to get to this point, and I asked if continuing with trial classes until I felt more settled was an option. It was, and actually, this was the best decision I made in my nascent teaching career (something I will go into more later).
For most teachers, however, moving from trial to regular classes is a natural first step and one the majority take fairly quickly. Trials, as you may have guessed, are classes of brand new students testing out the school; you teach one of four demo lessons assigned based on level, and you never teach the same student twice. A regular class is a more solid affair; you teach the same kids for around 25 weeks, using the curriculum set out by Whales.
Some Highlights So Far
Despite teaching new students each time, I have ‘met’ some truly amazing, sweet Chinese children. I’ve been flabbergasted by the linguistic range of 3 year olds, and delighted by the worldly insights of 13 year olds. There have been times of frustration and annoyance, of course, but I take those moments with a pinch of salt as I count my blessings that I get to teach from home, for a company who have been good to me, and earning a salary that allows me to live a life that I love.
In fact, today marks the day (and this is no word of a lie) that I have finally paid off all of my debts. And it’s this – this – that’s been the real highlight; that my salary affords me enough disposable income that I can whittle away at my debts, put some into savings, and enter motherhood full in the black. I could fib and tell you it’s the smiles and the chance to change lives – and while those things ARE amazing – it’s been the chance to transform my own life that’s been the real highlight for me.
I will continue to update this page as my employment continues, so check back to see where I’m at on my journey.
*Full disclaimer: I’ll receive a few pennies in return, so it’s a win-win for both of us ?